Anne lay back across Andys lumpy bed, gazing upwards towards a ceiling which seemed to be fading out into darkness even half a dozen candles couldn’t penetrate. Henry lurked somewhere up there, enjoying his meal. Spiders and... snakes? Rats in the wall... there was a story that the Catfish mentioned once, in his book, by Poe – but no, that was another. Still, considering the author was Poe, it would probably have ended badly for all involved. Or maybe it had been an episode of the Twilight Zone...    









          That had been good weed.

Andy removed his shoes, let his toe feel around under the bed until it bumped up against a thing. A guitar shaped thing with a fist-shaped hole in the back. He reached down, pulled it up.

          "Yukk!" Anne responded. "Did the burglars smash that too?"

          "Actually no... it was trashed long ago. Otherwise, it would have been gone a long time ago. Thing is... looks like shit, but it plays. Sort of..." and he strummed a few chords of dubious provenance. He leaned back against the wall, hoisting his feet up to make an X across Anne's body.

          "Remember our anarchists' song, from the U.?" he said before affecting a nasal Brooklyn accent...


"Oh... I'm da sorta guy, what likes to roam around

I organize da people, help to tear the system down

And when I find a boss, that scum which pulls the people’s strings

I cut 'em and I blow 'em up, an' other ugly things

They call me the Wobbily! Yeah, I'm da Wobbily...

I roam from town to town to town to town...

          ... dah dah, de dah, de dah...

That's right, I'll roam from town to town...

Until the Revolution comes... dah dah, de dah...

And I'm as happy as a clown...

For all the power that comes spurting...

   from the barrel of my gun... oh...

I'm the kinda guy..."

          Abruptly he let the guitar slip down, off the bed. "Although your Catfish says that anarchists are all right-wing, now, like that Ayn Rand Paul who got beat up by his lawnmower man or those somebodies Spanish.  Anyway," he shrugged as Anne wriggled sideways, hung both hands around him and kissed the side of his neck. "Hey!" he exclaimed as she kicked a shoe to the floor, revealing naked nylon. "Pheww!" he recoiled. "Whatsamatta you... career women ain't supposed to have smelly feet..."

          "I can't help it!" Anne said, lying back on the cluttered bed, pushing more papers over its edge. "I wear my soles out all day chasing stupid men; this is the thanks I get?  Foot shaming?"

          "You've got to stop being a fashion victim," he counseled.

          "Naah... I'm way, way down on the ladder of the hierarchy of victimization. Costa Ricans, unwed mothers harassed by pizza guys, corona people with environmental illnesses. Smelly, sore feet are small potatoes. Easily satisfied by a visit to the spa," she added, raising her left hand a few inches to stroke his back.

          "Easily?" Andy reached across, drew little circles over the nearest breast with his index finger. "Looks to me like you're trying to climb up that ladder to the twenty-five percent bracket..."

          "Meaning being with you's worse than being with Glenn at the Ivona? Cut the crap, kiddo," she said, punching him lightly on the shoulder.

          "No, it's true. Really! Fact is, I'm really crazy! I just don't care... all these years of Nixonism, Reaganism, Clintonism times two, Bushshish times three, Omawahabishm, Trumpism... shischismism... just blowin’ my mind. Spinning down that helter-skelter, through the black Cobb-hole to the dark neoliberal circle of despair... all we are saying…"

          And he strummed a sour chord… “is get piece of ass…”

          "You should quit the Sanctuary, get back into music," Anne suggested, rumpling his hair. "Start one of those gothic metal emo-rap bands, sing angry, pitiful songs about suicide, spiders... now that all those other old grunge guys are hanging themselves…"

          "It would be a choice. Probably no worse than the choices American kids face today... go off to school, pick up a gun. Shoot yourself, waste the teacher, classmates... or just go shooting into a crowd.  Or drop out, join the Army and go shoot Costa Ricans…"

          Anne lifted her hand off his head, let it roam further south. "Boys!... boys and their guns..."

          "I mean..." Andy started, "...isn't this adultery, or something like it?"

          "We've been over for years," Anne sighed. "The way I look at it..."

          "You and me?  Or you and Glenn?  How about Glenn, how does he look at it?  After all, he was always the sort of gun nut behind his Clark Kent glasses…"

          "You never pulled out of the sixties, even though you were in diapers during the Summer of Love! Glenn got past all that, but never survived the eighties and the nineties, and it wasn’t just watching that Abba movie five times and dragging me to that goddam Broadway production in his Toyota with a fuckin’ Kerry sticker.  Twice!  Wants it all! Anything he can grab on the side and some Stepford doll to crawl home to... I mean, if we had a home?  Sublet the condo in Maryland... this last year we've been living out of hotels. Mostly good hotels, resorts even, but it's blow into town... shmooze people into joining or at least thinking about supporting the Coalition, take their money and move on, dot con..."

          "Doesn't sound like the forty-dollar door-to-door trip," Andy said.

          "No it's serious. Deadly serious!" she repeated, letting her wrist bounce on Andy's groin like a zombie bouncing atop a trampoline.  “Jack gets the big money from the money people convinced he’ll take votes away from Democrats.  Just like Tillerman working Bernie Sanders’ lists…”


          “My lips are sealed,” Anne zipped an index finger across her mouth.

          "You really are the people I've fantasized about shooting," Andy slipped into the first person. "All these thoughts that flicker through my head at night between the screams and sirens on the street... bodies running, flying, I'm just turning around and pointing... there! There! like some heroine in that bloody pirate movie sequel Disney and Rob Zombie are making, the musical out of Brecht and Weill, now that the Mouse is running Fox.  Doing the peoples' duty... nothing left beautiful or healthy whatsoever anymore, so why the hell not do a Virginia Tech, Orlando or - what was that place with the Jews, Pittsburgh? I feel! I understand the fascists now... we romanticize victims, thinking they're better than us when we really know that all real victims want out of life's a chance to turn the tables. Like the Kosovars, or the shite Iraqis... that Zanzibar whoever, executing all the old Saddam, Qaddafi and Bashir sad people..."

          "That..." Anne said, beginning to unbutton her silk blouse, "is about the strangest pickup rap I've ever had dumped on me!  At least in this century…"

          "What can I say?" Andy shrugged. "It's like the Bible tells you so... these are the times to refrain from embracing. Or maybe it was Don Jones.  Of course it doesn't help that the central metaphor for private life over the past generation has become disease... AIDS, corona, wokeness…"

          Anne lifted her hand, raised it, slapped him sharply across the cheek. "Well, fuck the Bible! How about Burger Jack... or back when it was just Burger King before somebody overthrew that creepy King... sometimes you gotta break the rules! It was Burger King, wasn't it... or was it somebody's sneakers squeaking? And sneaking... I mean, speaking about squeakers, maybe I should be asking if you've got any rubbers around here?"

          Andy lurched to his left, straddled her. "Good show, jolly good show!" he said, affecting a British accent. "Excellent question... even consummate! Striving to extrapolate the consequences..."

          "Andy, lose the voice!"


          "The voices!" Anne protested, "I always hated it when you would use these phony voices. Be yourself!"

          "Milady, I..."

          "Glenn always uses voices too, he thinks I liked that about you, so he’s still imitatin’. Except that it's OK with him... he doesn't have any self left to lose..."

          "Maybe while we are on the topic of consummation and prophylactics... new or used... I ought to be asking you about Glenn," Andy said, the British voice spinning up and away, like a bug towards Henry's web.

          "His only infection is power."

          Andy grunted, sat up to unzip his fly. "So late in life, then, we resort to unsafe sex..."

          "There is no such thing as safe sex," Anne retorted, sharply. "Western civilization would collapse without its sexual inhibitions... outright prohibition or sublimation through commodities, Jack says. If there was decent American sex, we wouldn't have any art or culture, no economic progress.  No iPhone Thirteens.  Crime, and the proximity of death - these stimulate creativity."

          Andy looked over his shoulder. "Why do I get the feeling that you're slumming?"

          "Because this is a slum? Because you're so obsessed with running yourself down in the service of some imaginary virtue... of romanticizing poverty and powerlessness?"

          "Glenn was always the one who romanticized victims," Andy protested. "I, frankly, despise them. Everybody who actually deals with the situation does, too. It's easy to love the poor... at a distance." Andy found himself staring at a sock he'd removed, twirling it between his fingers and pondering. "Like two years ago, when he was here and asked me to find him a homeless man for some PR stunt; white guy, middle-aged but not a bum, or at least someone who could be cleaned up and passed off as a downsized middle manager cut loose during the plague. I remember the whole spin; that was just after the Catfish got kicked out of Congress..."

          "He retired," Anne objected.  “They jiggered his district…”

          "Whatever... Glenn wanted to get him this laid-off factory guy, no women, they would have implied family desertion, which plays into the hands of Republicans or the Democrats, depending on how you spin it. Middle aged homeless white guy, Trump voter, preferably with a family... you weren't here," Andy added, "I think he said that you were out in California."

          "Good! At least I did something right."

          "Boy, did Glenn look shitfaced when the guy I found for him said he wanted to be paid for being in all those photos and videos. As if it wasn't enough to just be working for the good of God, the Catfish and America... Glenn might be a Conk but he's really social Darwinism in action. Poor people exist to serve him! Your social service types to entertain and distract the unwanted, charity to keep them from starving and embarrassing us in front of the Unapissers..."

          "Bread and circuses," Anne pointed out, literally pointing out her point with a finger on his chin, "wouldn't have been worth diddly without the Roman Legions and their swords keeping the masses in line..."

          "But they do shield the system from accountability," Andy began to protest when Anne squirmed, arching her back and reaching beneath the bedspread to extract an uncomfortable swath of anti-Conk propaganda that Andy had collected over the past month. Fliers from the PLO, IRA and a dozen other been-around-forever initials and the new, obscure movements with their slogans, forms and formal letters from Disson’s office, bills...all of which, with Andy's professorial jacket, were shoved over the edge of the bed, sliding onto the threadbare carpet while Anne pressed her lips to his ear and whispered, harshly...

          "Are we gonna talk politics or fuck?"

          And finally he couldn't help but smile. "If you're positive that I'm not being a homewrecker," he said, beginning to fumble with his shirt.

          "What home?" Anne interrupted. "At worst, a hotelwrecker. And let me... I'll be careful," she slapped his hand away. "It doesn't impress me, men ripping off their shirts. Glenn's done it too many times. You, on the other hand, can't afford to be having shirts ripped off... trust me! I'll be careful, that's a very nice shirt. The kind of white shirt that white people used to wear to go down South with, in, and get shot in.  No homes to wreck. Glenn has to replicate the people he sees on television or in magazine ads..."

          "He could be in a men's clothing ad, he's in better shape than I am," Andy suggested, even as he loosened Anne's belt and began sliding her Chanel skirt downwards. "Works out? And his hair's never out of place! It's even better than the hair on the men, here, who read the news on television..."

          "Yeah, but he wouldn't make it on TV... too twitchy. He needs to see a doctor, take the right sort of pills, but he won't... instead he takes other, wrong, pills and drinks. And plays with his gun, everywhere... that's what he says… my glass, my gal, my gun. His Henry!" she added, wincing as Andy's teeth closed firmly around one nipple.

          He ran tongue down her breastalopes... through one valley and back up the other. "Here the brigadistas come," he whispered, "marching cross the hills of Costa Rica, down to San Jose!" Her arms flailed briefly, then plunged downwards, raking his bare back while he pulled his pants down, kicked them off, raising his voice as he twisted atop her. "Resolutely the Red Army drives towards the caves of Yunnan..."

          He grasped both her hips... she reached for his hair, then let it go, shaking the loose strands that had come out over the side of the bed, gripping his buttocks instead. "More!" she cried...

          "In a Parisian street, the people's battering-ram explodes against the gates of the Bastille..."


          "In the Costa Rican rainforest, Comandante Cuatro's massive anaconda squeezes through the tentflaps of imperialist headquarters..."

          She bit his lip, but gently, he thrust left, then right, then left again. Their coupling concluded in the instant that it takes for a political commercial to flash onscreen... one of those hit pieces that proliferate during the witching season between Halloween and Election Day when all argument and posture have been boiled down to symbolism… waving flags, marching soldiers, screeching clergymen.  Still, her contractions kept wringing every last drop of moisture out of his body... as if he were an orange in a juicer... convulsions that broke his patter down to a series of incoherent grunts, continuing even after he had offered up all that he had to give. The mocking refrain of that old "Hot Rod Lincoln" rattled through his brain... "all there is, and there ain't no more..." still she rocked, heaved and thrust, finally throwing the weight of her body sideways to twist Andy over, pin him on his back so he was left to look up into the dark, flickering domain of candleglow and spiders, wondering what the hell he'd gotten himself into, even as he heard the 'whup whup whup!' of another UNAPIS helicopter somewhere over the street, between Anne's gasps, the old voices skittering through his thoughts like rats in the hotel walls that kept assuring him that it didn't matter...

          Nothing mattered...






          Glenn Savitt spat this out in the near-empty Satellite Lounge, three doors down from the Ivona. His audience, a weary Massachusetts Conk trying to close their deal on the Ethics Caucus, winced and stared down into the swirling tremors of his scotch and ice, recalling the old subliminal seduction hysteria... monsters airbrushed into booze ads to torment vulnerable alcoholics into ordering another drink. Now, he was a distressed, defeated and... of course... older babysitter to semi-important madmen, measuring the longevity of his plight as a lobster might contemplate the rising temperature of the pot he'd been summarily dropped into.

          "Whole fuckin' Convention's laughing at us!" Glenn snarled. "An’ my woman? She's out dancin' with all of ‘em... Colorado cowboys, all lined up to take a poke at her? You know the Davis Mansion, where they're whooping it up... I picketed that place once, when Casper, the friendly ghost; Weinstein or what-the-fuck Reagan’s man came into town! Used to live here, you know?"

          "He did?  Cap?  Really?" the Conk pretended interest, surreptitiously checking his watch.

          "Not Casper," Glenn spat, "me! People from here know how to keep their bitches in line, how to settle problems," Glenn said, with an ominous determination. "Lemme tell you about this guy here, used to be the local big-shot, name of Mark Cobb..."      












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